November 8, 2019
Raised by a single mom who made sure her two girls knew how to be independent, Prathima Gollapudi, senior design engineer with large mining trucks, quickly learned to ignore gender stereotypes.
“There was no job a girl could not do,” said Gollapudi. “I have now taught my own daughter that Daddy can cook and do laundry and Mommy can change a tire.”
From learning how to disassemble, and reassemble, household items to having the confidence to be herself in a room full of men, Gollapudi’s upbringing helped her ignore the fact that she was the only female in her Mechanical Engineering master’s class and the only female engineer on her immediate team when she started at Caterpillar in 2006.
As the professional development chair for the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) in Tucson and a Caterpillar liaison for Junior Achievement — a global non-profit that fosters work-readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy skills — Gollapudi has the first-hand understanding of how important science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education is for children of all genders.
“There is a disconnect between the academic outcome and the needs of a growing industry in focused STEM domains,” she said. “It is very important for everyone – academic professionals, corporations, entrepreneurs and individuals — to help bridge this gap to build and sustain a strong pipeline for future professionals.”
Specifically in mining, where only about 16% of the workforce is female (according to a recent Workplace Gender Equality Agency Report), the gender gap is being acknowledged and deliberate efforts are being made to strike a balance. Studies have shown, for example, that sites with more balanced gender representation in the workforce perform better and have fewer injuries.
At Caterpillar, initiatives like our Women’s Initiative Network help promote awareness and programming for women who want to pursue careers in STEM-related fields. Programs such as the Introduce a Girl to STEM and Girls Experience Mining provide young girls the opportunity to see live demonstrations and get hands-on learning experience around mining and technology to learn more about these industries and hopefully, encourage them to join team Caterpillar one day, like Gollapudi. See more details on these events below.
“Being equipped with the basics of mathematics, engineering and sciences have constantly given me an edge while translating the customer needs into the technical specifications needed to define and set the new design and manufacturing parameters,” she said. “We cannot afford to not include both genders equally in this quest for a better tomorrow.”